TITLE

Biologizing social facts: an early 20th century debate on Kraepelin's concepts of culture, neurasthenia, and degeneration

AUTHOR(S)
Roelcke, Volker; Roelcke, V
PUB. DATE
December 1997
SOURCE
Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry;Dec97, Vol. 21 Issue 4, p383
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
journal article
ABSTRACT
This paper uses an historical approach to elucidate two alternative modes of conceptualizing the relation between social factors and psychological phenomena perceived as pathological. The core features of Neo-Kraepelinian psychiatric nosology associated with the introduction of DSM-III in 1980 were also at the center of a debate in early 20th century Germany. The protagonists were Emil Kraepelin and Oswald Bumke. Kraepelin's empirical research selectively focused on somatic factors as independent variables, such as alcohol, syphilitic infection, and heredity. The ensuing nosology marginalised social factors which might contribute to the etiology and symptom formation of psychiatric conditions. For Bumke, the disorders in question (including the category of neurasthenia) did not represent qualitative deviations from normal psychological states, but quantitative variations of ubiquitous psychological functions caused by a multitude of somatic, psychological, and social factors. The main arguments of the historical debate are reconstructed, with special regard to the professional and political context. The paper illustrates the importance of context-bound pre-'scientific' decisions for the process of formulating theoretical concepts in psychiatry and related disciplines.
ACCESSION #
224012

 

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